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Physical Therapist Assistant Instructor, Amber Tempin, Shares how she got Here and Advice for Future Students!

February 22, 2022

Can you please tell us a little about yourself?

Hello, my name is Amber Tempin.  I moved to Idaho from Texas in 2001 after graduating high school. After high school, I took a couple of years to seek out what I wanted to do for a career, and in 2003 I had a son.

Starting when I was 16 years old, I worked as a nursing assistant in a skilled nursing facility and continued being a caregiver/nursing assistant for 12 years. I knew then I could see myself in a healthcare career. However, I was unsure what that looked like but knew caring for others brought a great deal of personal satisfaction.

I attended Boise State University from 2005-2008 and completed general sciences, math, and English classes in anticipation of applying to the nursing program. I had a personal goal of completing a degree before my son was 9 years old. It was then I discovered Carrington College had a Physical Therapy Assisting (PTA) program. It didn’t take long to recall some amazing Physical Therapists who educated me during my years as a caregiver on subjects like better body mechanics and different transfer techniques. After inquiring about the PTA program at Carrington I switched gears from nursing to PTA. I then switched gears from nursing to PTA.

I was able to transfer some of my credits from Boise State University and started the PTA program in 2012. I graduated from Carrington College and was licensed in 2013. After graduating, I worked as a contract therapist in multiple settings, including skilled nursing, home health, and long-term care hospitals for the first four years. In the last four years, I have worked primarily in home health here in the Treasure Valley.

During the last 8 years, I have also focused on my family and strive to provide for my son as a single parent. I was pleased to be able to send my son to Costa Rica in 2015 on a school trip and purchase my first home in 2017. In July of 2021 I was seeking a new challenge and applied to Carrington College as an Instructor. Much to my surprise, I was interviewed by Dr. Bird who has been the Program Director since I attended Carrington College. This gave me a sense of familiarity and made me feel more comfortable in my decision to seek a new career setting.


What made you want to get into education/teaching?

After much self-analysis and reassurance, I was able to recall past personal experiences of successfully instructing and educating patients and patients’ family members while treating for physical therapy. I also noticed an increase in patient understanding and improved compliance. Which, any clinician knows is sometimes the hardest task.

I was looking to broaden my skills outside of patient care and I love to continuously be learning. I saw the job posting for an instructor about a month before I got up the nerve to apply.

Between my desire to continue learning and the satisfaction I get by teaching others, I knew I wanted to challenge myself in an academic setting and applied for the job.

Then, I quickly immersed myself in videos and podcasts to learn more about what being an instructor really entailed. I knew that it was going to be a learning curve in the beginning but knew each day would get better and I was right.


What’s a typical day like for a Physical Therapist Assistant?

The typical day for a Physical Therapist Assistant consists of daily care coordination, building trust with your patient, and educating the patient.


What’s the coolest thing about being a Physical Therapist Assistant?

I think the coolest thing about being a Physical Therapist Assistant is the ability to be able to think outside of the box to reach a patient outcome/goal. You can be as creative in your treatment style as you want.


Any advice for someone who’s thinking about a career as a Physical Therapist Assistant?

I would encourage someone who is thinking about a career in a Physical Therapist Assistant to shadow a therapist in multiple settings. This will give them time to observe and ask questions that may never have occurred to them before. They would also gain a better understanding of patient care, especially if they have never worked in the health field.


Do you have a positive story you could share with us regarding one of our students or graduates?

I recently had a student that was failing quizzes in my class. I was able to meet with her weekly to discover better study strategies and how to apply class content to daily life. Through working together this student was able to pass future quizzes and pass the class. I felt so proud of the hard work of this student.  I then realized that being an instructor means you also worry alongside the student, often up late at night wondering how to deliver the content to the student that works for them.


Any advice for potential students looking to pursue a career as a Physical Therapist Assistant?

I would encourage someone who is thinking about a career in Physical Therapist Assisting to shadow a therapist as much as possible in multiple settings and ideally, more than one state. This time as an observer will give them the best understanding of what a career in physical therapy is like on a daily basis. This type of experience can answer a lot of questions that students have prior to admission to a program. And for those potential students who have never worked in a health care or clinical setting, can gain a better understanding of patient care.


What’s your favorite thing about Carrington College?

My favorite thing about Carrington College is the people who they employ. Everyone is extremely willing to help, and each person holds themselves to a high standard of excellence.


How does it feel to be back at Carrington College and now teaching?

Returning to Carrington as an Instructor is very surreal but very comfortable. In 2013, I thought to myself “I will never return to this campus. I’m free!” I know the pace of the program is swift and many feel the same way, but fast forward to today, and I feel very excited to have the opportunity to be in this environment and grow personally, but also to share my experiences at Carrington with students. I still recall the long study nights, the frustration that can occur from learning at a fast pace, and the self-doubt that students feel.  I am able to help my students be reassured that as challenging as their educational experience is, I’ve been there and I succeeded and so can they. I also share with my students that when you do something new, it doesn’t always look “pretty.” Everyone must hone their own skills, figure out the details as they go, and just keep pushing themselves past their comfort level.


Has anything changed now that you’re the teacher?

Because of my experience working as a PTA for the past nine years, I feel a lot more confident in what I know and what I don’t know. I have learned a lot about physical therapy since graduating and that knowledge gives me even more confidence as I help prepare future therapists embarking on their own health care careers.


How has the program evolved (improved) since you were a student?

The Physical Therapy Assistant, PTA program has improved with technology in the classroom and increased lab equipment. The PTA program in 2012 was a newer program at the Boise campus when I was a student, and it was still working on its accreditation requirements when I enrolled. Therefore, the curriculum and the learning structure have improved, and the business operations are more efficient.


How can your current students benefit from your experience as a former student at Carrington College?

  • Are you able to share with your students what worked best for you?

I have shared what helped me learn as a student with note-taking and memorization techniques. I have also shared with the students my experiences as a former student to reassure them the time spent is well worth the outcome.

  • Anything that helped you learn that you can pass on to your students?

I have implemented an activity where students share during classroom time what works for them to help them remember key components of the material. This was something that helped me find new or better methods for learning in the past.


How is it working alongside Dr. Bird, who was once your instructor?

Working with Dr. Bird as an instructor is an honor. As a former student, I knew Dr. Bird has high expectations when it comes to the quality of the instruction. As I reflect on the question, I also realize that in some ways I am still a student of Dr. Bird. While we work together as instructors, he is once again training/educating me on my new career in the field of academia. I feel very grateful for all I learned from Dr. Bird in the classroom as a PTA student and again nine years later as a faculty member.


Are you still working as a Physical Therapist Assistant along with teaching?

Yes, I still work as a Physical Therapist Assistant for a home health agency in the valley. This does allow me to stay in touch with patient care.

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